DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Reading First: Student Achievement, Teacher Empowerment, National Success
April 2007

“Reading First is helping nearly two million children, many from low-income families, to read by the end of the third grade. It is also enabling states to build the infrastructure to sustain sound instruction well into the future.” --Secretary Margaret Spellings Over the decades, millions of children in America have been denied the opportunity to learn to read. Popular but misguided learning fads caught on in many school districts, which were not held accountable for results. To help solve this problem, the Reading First program was created. Reading First builds on a solid foundation of scientifically based research and provides struggling students in the nation’s highest need schools with the necessary resources to make significant progress in reading achievement. Reading First is the academic cornerstone of the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act. Reading First provides grants to states to help schools and school districts improve children’s reading achievement through scientifically proven methods of instruction. The program funds professional development, scientifically based instructional programs, materials, and strategies, valid and reliable screening, diagnostic and ongoing classroom assessments, and statewide accountability and leadership structures. Reading First is designed to help needy students in K-3, while Early Reading First helps children in preschool. President Bush and Congress are providing record funding for scientifically proven reading programs. Under No Child Left Behind, State Educational Agencies (SEAs) have received over $4.8 billion in Reading First grants. President Bush’s proposed budget for FY 2008 includes $1.1 billion for Reading First and Early Reading First. Reading First is working. Reading First is the largest and most effective federal early reading initiative in our nation’s history. New achievement data reported by the States shows that Reading First students from nearly every grade and subgroup (Hispanic, African American, Disabled, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged) have made impressive gains in reading proficiency. o On average, the 26 States with baseline data increased the percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency on fluency outcome measures: 16% average gain for 1st graders 14% average gain for 2nd graders 15% average gain for 3rd graders o On average, the 26 States with baseline data increased the percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency on comprehension outcome measures: 15% average gain for 1st graders 6% average gain for 2nd graders 12% average gain for 3rd graders For more information, visit www.ed.gov or call 1-800-USA-LEARN.

Children in Reading First schools receive significantly more reading instruction – almost 100 minutes more per week on average – than those in non-Reading First Title I schools, according to the Reading First Implementation Evaluation: Interim Report. According to the Center on Education Policy, 97% of participating school districts that reported increased student achievement credit Reading First as an important factor. Just like every other aspect of No Child Left Behind, states and local communities maintain control. States and local schools have the flexibility to determine how reading programs are selected, as long as the selected program is grounded in scientifically based reading research. There is no federally prescribed reading program. States are responsible for the quality of the local programs they fund, and for ensuring that these programs rely on scientifically based reading research. Reading First is designed to help the children who need it the most. The Department distributes funds by formula, taking into account the number of children living below the poverty line in that state. State educational agencies (SEAs) then competitively subgrant funds to eligible school districts to establish scientifically based reading programs in schools with the greatest need to improve student achievement. At the local level, LEA eligibility is based, in part, on student reading achievement and poverty. Thanks to Reading First, schools and teachers finally have the technical knowledge and the practical training to ensure every child gets the help he or she needs to excel in reading. As a direct result of Reading First grants, more than 100,000 teachers across the country from kindergarten through grade 3 have been trained to implement highquality, scientifically based reading programs. Their efforts are reaching more than 1.8 million students National Reading Panel: Origins of Reading First The Reading First initiative builds on the findings of years of scientific research, which, at the request of Congress, were compiled by the National Reading Panel. In 1997, Congress asked the Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to convene a national panel to assess the effectiveness of different approaches used to teach children to read. The 15 members of the panel were selected from among nearly 300 persons who were nominated by a wide variety of public sources. The final panel members were selected by the NICHD in consultation with the US Department of Education. The National Reading Panel included prominent reading researchers, teachers, child development experts, leaders in elementary and higher education, and parents. Reviewing over 100,000 studies on reading, The National Reading Panel (NRP) found five components essential to a child's learning to read: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. For more information about the President’s Reading First Program, please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s web site at http://www.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/index.html.